BLACK: Why promote silence?



Brigid Black

When you walk across campus today, you might notice a sea of purple, green and yellow. No, it isn’t Mardi Gras – many members of the student body are sporting these colorful T-shirts as a way of showing their support for Villanova’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community. For today, Villanova is observing the National Day of Silence.

The National Day of Silence has been organized each year since 1997 by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Traditionally, hundreds of thousands of students in the United States take a voluntary vow of silence. It is designed to bring attention to the harassment and discrimination that silences the voices of LGBT students (and their allies) across the nation. This year, the official Day of Silence is tomorrow.

However, here at Villanova, the Gay-Straight Coalition puts its own twist on the Day of Silence.

Firstly, it was moved up to today so that the day’s events would not conflict with NovaFest. Secondly, the Day of Silence is actually observed in a particularly “un-silent” way. Students are instead encouraged to have open discussion on campus about the issues that LGBT students face at Villanova and in our society as a whole.

This year’s theme is reflected on the purple, green and yellow shirts that read “Shattering the Silence.” The shirts are a visual symbol of these students’ support for LGBT students and their allies.

Other events for today’s Day of Silence include a panel discussion on being gay at 4 p.m. in Mendel 154, hosted by Dr. Bernard Gallagher’s Social Psychiatry class. A reception will follow at 5:30 p.m., also in Mendel.

Thus, the Day of Silence is meant to be a positive educational experience. However, many people have formed a radically different – and largely intolerant – outlook on the day.

One organization in particular, the Alliance Defense Fund, established a day of its own to counteract the Day of Silence called the “Day of Truth.” How ironic, then, that the “Day of Truth” is actually built on inaccuracy, insensitivity and ignorance – in other words, lies.

First, the ADF completely misstates the mission of the Day of Silence with typical sensationalist terms used by extreme Christian right-wing groups. According to, the Day of Silence asks students to “express their support for the promotion of the homosexual agenda in the public schools.” This statement makes a mockery of the entire purpose of the Day of Silence, which is to bring attention to the frequent bullying and harassment of LGBT students (GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey found that four out of five LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school).

Secondly, the Day of Truth masquerades as an event meant to “protect free speech” and to allow students the right to “hear and speak the Truth about human sexuality,” according to its Web site.

Such language sugarcoats the crux of the ADF’s platform: that this “Truth” means that “those who struggle with homosexual behavior” can change their sexual orientation, citing Christ as the key.

What the Day of Truth gets wrong is that we do not choose to be gay or straight. Gay persons cannot simply become straight (this is a highly outdated claim; the American Psychological Association denies the validity of “conversion” therapy for gay people), nor should they have to at all. Sexuality is one of the most basic and innate components of all human beings. Whether we are homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual should not deny us the basic dignity and respect that all people deserve – in our schools, our families and our lives. Wouldn’t Christ feel the same way?

Ultimately, Villanova’s participation in the Day of Silence is a testament to the character and mission of our University. As students that stand for truth, unity and love, our support and embracement of LGBT students contributes to an increasingly more progressive and accepting world.

Truly, the Day of Silence has a deafeningly powerful voice – one that the Day of Truth cannot ever silence.


Brigid Black is a junior English and French major from Brooklyn, N.Y. She can be reached at [email protected]